Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Egg Fly Carp Conundrum

I have a conundrum and it's name is egg.

At the start of the year I really had no idea that an egg pattern was a viable option for carp and I was quite content in my ignorance. I spent quite a few years back in the day chucking eggs patterns for MI Steel-head with frustrating results. I was quite pleased with the idea of letting all of my egg tying materials rot in their bin.

Ignorance is bliss but my bliss started to crumble this spring. It started with the fly swap and Gregg Martin's submission.

Gregg's Eggs
This was interesting and I even went out and caught some pond carp with them.  These were tough carp in a behavioral mode that I usually don't have much luck.  On a rational level I chalked it up as a new arrow in the quiver for carp sleep-tailing in mucky mud but I was still emotionally ill-prepared to embrace the egg.

Unfortunately the onslaught on my fragile emotional state has continued.  

First of all my buddy Mike decided to start sight-fishing a small unweighted peach egg almost exclusively this year, particularly for passive behaviors.  Hey, sounds like a personal problem to me except for the minor fact that he has destroyed me virtually every time we have fished together this year.  He even hooked Kahn (my grass carp nemesis) on one of these eggs!  Kahn annihilated him of course.

Second of all John and I experimented with an egg in Oregon.  The results were mixed but promising.  We caught a couple of fish and once again it seemed like an option when faced with passivity.  For example I had one (and only one) top-water sunning carp wake up and aggressively charge 2 feet for a slowly sinking un-weighted egg that I dropped ever so gently in front of it from 35 or 40 feet away.  I would have bet you a hundred dollars that fish was impossible.

Third of all I pulled out the egg on the South Platte last Friday.  Will Rice and I had found a bunch of small carp super slow cruising mid-column in deeper water.  Waste of time right?  Not so fast I had 4 carp turn 90 degrees and slowly follow the egg down.  I have no idea if they eventually took the fly, but to even get a reaction was a miracle.

Which brings us to the conundrum.  What is it about the egg?  Lets get it out of the way and say there is nothing like a size 10 peach egg slowly dropping straight through the column in any of the waters I have gotten a reaction on.  These waters don't even get duck feeders.
  • Shape? I just don't feel it.  Gregg's are perfectly round, while Mikes are the more typical home-tied quick and dirty half-moon blob of yarn on a hook.   
  • Color?  Seems promising.  I didn't realize it when I was plunging them to the bottom of Steelhead runs but now that I have tried them sight fishing, the fluorescence in egg yarn is shockingly visible in the water.  
  • Sink rate?  Partially.  Unweighted eggs sink pretty slow.  Not nearly as slow as you would think but really really slow.  Lots of flies sink slow though.
  • Splash?  Very promising.  An unweighted yarn egg drops on the water like a feather.
  • Sink-rate versus splash?  Very Very promising.  Although they sink slowly, after just a fraction of a second on the water egg yarn sinks much faster than you would expect for how lightly it lands.
So, what do I make of all of this?  Something besides an egg first off.  I want a little of McTage's McLuvin in all my flies.  Based on a mixture of ideas I like floating around by Gregg Martin and Nolan Majcher on the USCARPPRO forum and on Trashfishing and Funhogging, I make this:

The idea is to mix a meaty crayfishy profiled body, the action of a Trouser Worm and some of the possible benefits of egg yarn.  Now I just need to weasel some time on the water to try it out! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

USCARPPRO Forum Update

As you may know Fly-Carpin and Carp On The Fly threw out the idea that we all get together and declare the USCARPPRO Fly-Slingerz forum home almost exactly a month ago

As expected Dave Smith and the existing members have been extremely welcoming and to my surprise it actually worked.  Extremely well.  Well enough that I have had a hard time keeping up with the action!  By my count there have been 48 posts with 525 replies in that month.  More importantly some of these discussions have been extensive, profound and really fun.  

If catching carp on flies is your thing and you dig forums and are looking to be a member of a community and you haven't dropped in yet I would strongly recommend checking it out!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tricks of the Trade #1 - Saving that $3.00 fly

The following are some tricks to prevent losing all those grudgingly purchased flies to trees, stumps, rocks and other vengeful inanimate objects:
  1. If you are snagged on the bottom and can get close enough you can easily get your fly back at least 90% of the time by running your rod tip down the line and leader while stripping in the line with the other hand until it hits the fly and pushes it off.  Double check that your line is still strung through the tip. This usually makes your fly go through the top eyelet, even and especially if you fly is much too big to possibly fit.
    • This does not work with two fly rigs or indicators.  This is the only definitive (and admittedly highly irrational) proof I have that both are evil. 
  2. When snagged deep or too far out working out some extra line and throwing a hard roll-cast past the snag a couple of times occasionally works.
    • Standing tall and screaming "f-ing snag" is encouraged during this process.  You are probably going to scare any nearby carp with this rather violent and noisy technique in order to save that $3.00 fly and might as well get your licks in while you can.
  3. Hold the rod tip high and forward with as much line held off the water as possible.  Gently wiggle the rod tip side to side and fore-aft so that the line develops standing waves with pulses of LIGHT pressure followed by slack. 
    • You can pretty much tell that you have progressed from gentle wiggles to violent thrashing when your rod breaks. 
  4. Walking over and gently pulling the fly off of whatever ails you works really well.
    • Yeah, this always surprises me as well.
  5. When all else fails grab the line in your rod hand, point the rod and pull with slowly and steadily increasing pressure.
    • Neither tungsten nor lead is delicious.  To avoid eating it channel your inner baseball pitcher and keep the rod butt low and outside. 
    •  If your favorite fly gives you a prison tattoo or piercing somewhere on the fore-arm grit your teath and repeat after me:  "Fly-Carpin is not responsible" and " De-barbing is for wussies.". 
  6. Heck with it, tie your own flies and save the money.
    • If you buy that I have at least $3000 dollars in partially used bags of fly-tying material I will sell you.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lego My Logo

Here are a couple more finished products on the logo effort.  I am pretty pleased with it and not terribly sure how to make it better.  If it is not ridiculously expensive and if this is an embroider-able design this may turn into hats.

The first and second version are just different treatments of the carp color and outlining.  The bottom one shows what happens when you use a .png format and stupid blogger gives it a grey background that I can't figure out how to change for some reason.  Pretty cool looking actually.

Special thanks to Chris Galvin who pointed me in the right direction for grabbing the correct software to make a smoothed and scale able design in vector format.  I used IncScape which is freeware and really quite easy for a relatively simple project such as this.  One thousand percent better than a)  drawing software on my phone that I started with and b) Microsoft Paint.

Fly Carpin Logo Version2A

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Eventually I will have a cool logo.  Maybe even something I can make into a hat to replace stank.  Even John said that thing is beyond gross.  Here is a rough start, any thoughts?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Big C 2012: Swimming the Sea of Obsession

A four day trip with John Montana fly fishing for carp on the Columbia River is difficult to describe.  The entire trip feels as though you are doing the backstroke in a sea of obsession.  You eat, sleep, drink, talk and dream about carp as the rest of the world drops away below the vast blue horizon along with all your cares and worries.  The experience becomes all-absorbing.  As you would expect I found it exhilarating and profoundly satisfying.  In real life wallowing in our obsessions is rarely healthy or practical.  After all, life demands attention for the non-trivial.      

In contrast the difficulty of the Columbia River in the summer defies expectation.  Most of us read John’s blog religiously.  His frequent pictures of massive carp and reports of staggering numbers gives a false impression.  It seems as though his fishery is easier than yours.  After all it is hard to swallow or even imagine that John may just be orders of magnitude better than the rest of us. 

True, with some hard work and a little time on the water most hard-core carpers could reasonably expect to catch more and bigger carp than they are used to.  It does, however, take a frightening level of mastery and determination to achieve John Montana levels of success.  

High water levels precluded fishing John’s most productive water for the entire trip so we started out Friday fishing John's "Option D" water.  Option D seemed pretty good to me.  We had good light, moderate winds, hungry feeding fish with superb takes and I was on my game.  It was exactly what my over-active imagination had been picturing for weeks.  The highlight of the day for me was getting to stop, sit back and watch John battle a 22 pounder.  What a fish, what a fight.

John Montana Fighting a 22lb Carp on a fly
John sticking it to a 22lber!
The excellent conditions did not last long however, and on Saturday I awoke to thunder!  The rain faded rapidly but we had overcast conditions nearly all day that made sight fishing nearly impossible.  I was still on my game however and although I found it harder to spot fish than John we came away from the day with a fair tally, some great takes and the sure knowledge that we had made the best of it. 

Rain and Carpin do not mix
On Sunday conditions went from tough to ridiculous as 25 to 30 mph winds pounded us and the Columbia River all day.  The gale force winds virtually eliminated easier shots to smaller fish.  In a bizarre and tortuous twist those same winds also brought the big fish shallow and created many awe inspiring but heart rending shots of P.H.D. difficulty to truly gigantic fish.  Time after time John gave me the shots.  Time after time I failed to connect.  With a half hour of good light and 20 feet of prime flat remaining I was extremely dis-heartened when a large dark shape that could have been a weed but was actually an 18lb carp calmly shifted 6" to the right to inhale my perfectly presented Trouser Worm.  After all the repeated failures of the day all it took was one great take to save my day!         


18lb Carp caught on a Trouser Worm Carp fly in Oregon
18lbs of day-saving carp
Friday was prime again and we went back to the "Option D" waters looking for something a little easier.  Unfortunately I was bone tired and my confidence was shot.  You have to set the hook with authority at the slightest indication of a take on the Columbia and that requires a significant amount of faith.  Faith was not with me and for much of the day I was setting a fraction of a second too late.  Although I touched several fish and lost a few others all I came away with was the smallest carp in the history of Columbia Carpin.  Seriously.  One and a half pounds (scaled) of carp fury was not exactly what I had in mind for this trip.  I had to do the super-duper extended grip just to save a little pride.

A tiny 1.5lb carp caught on a fly on the Columbia River
Yeah baby!  One and a half pounds of carp fury!
There is nothing easy about how John catches so many big carp on flies in the Columbia River.  While Columbia carp are large, numerous and typically more willing to eat an extremely well presented fly than I am used to, the intangible challenges are significant.  The unpredictability of the conditions and the scope and in-accessibility of the fishery are overwhelming and exhausting.  The extremely precise and controlled presentations the carp prefer are demanding and unforgiving.  The takes are so subtle as to seem imaginary.  Detecting them and timing them at range seems to be as much art as skill.  It all combines to make this the most challenging,, intriguing and rewarding fishery I have ever experienced. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Big C 2012 Final Fly Arsenal

So here I am bored outta my skull waiting for my delayed flight to Oregon and it occurs to me.  I have the technology and can fake the know-how so why not share the misery!

In that vein here are some crappy phone pics of my two go-to boxes for the trip.  Freshly stocked and ready for action.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Big C 2012 Frantic Prep

Oh yeah baby.  Going back to the Big C (Columbia River) with John Montana from Carp On The Fly on Thursday.  Hoping to get me a whole lotta this:

And who knows, maybe some o that:

But first I gotta do up bunches and bunches of the others:

Soft-Hackles carp flies in a variety of weights and sizes:

Except one of these is not like the others.  Eventually boredom kicks in whenever I tie up a bunch of the same thing and something different just flows off the vice.  I have no control over the impulse.  For now we will call it a rubber soft-hackle.  As per Fly-Carpin policy it gets a goofy name if and when it proves it's mettle.  Between you and me I already have a good one picked out so here is hoping.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Mission: Token Trout Grip

People frequently ask me if I fly fish for trout at all.  The query is usually a little wide-eyed and scandalous so I give the answer people are looking for which is "Hell no".  Of course I am lying.  Mostly lying.

I don't often go out of my way to target trout anymore but when I am up at our family cabin and the opportunity presents itself I am all over it.  Now this is not the trout fishing you may picture.  We are not talking big rivers and big fish.  Give me anything wider than about 10 feet and I am clueless but drop me on a 5 foot wide willow creek at 10,000 feet and I am living deadly.  Significantly more so than for carp actually because this is where it all started for me.

This week we were up at our cabin for a fourth of July family vacation.  It was probably one of our best vacations ever and for the most part fishing was the last thing on my mind.

Of course everywhere you look there are awe inspiring vistas.  I have too many pictures of those.  Except you can never have too many pictures of those.

We took four wheel drive trips and hikes to historic sites.  After looking at a bunch of the miner cabins I can tell you one thing for sure.  My wuss ass would have lasted 10 minutes in the gold-rush!

Everywhere we went the valleys were virtually covered in wildflowers and butterflies.

We went rafting right down the stretch of the Taylor River that filthy rich bastards would like to claim as their own to the exclusion of all others.  Class three may have been a little over the top for our first rafting trip but after the first half hour we settled in and had a blast.  It was one of the funnest things we have ever done as a family and I sincerely hope to do it again.  We will see, these particular land-owners are ridiculously obnoxiously wealthy.   

Most cities in Colorado cancelled their fireworks but Gunnison held to the notion that if the professionals did not put on a show the amateurs would put on hundreds.  I am sure that infusion of cash the show brings to this small mountain economy had nothing to do with the decision.  Ignore me, I am jaded and either way they ended up having several hours of rain right before the fireworks and everything went off with a harmless bang.

At one point I did happen to look up and realize that I was irrelevant and unnecessary for an hour.  Just enough time to throw on my waders, walk down to the creek and initiate "Token Trout Grip".  This post will self destruct in 20 seconds.

When your time on your heritage waters is limited to an hour or three a year you don't mess around.  You head straight for the home-run hole.  The sure thing.  The 3 cast tomato sauce hole that is always good for getting off the skunk stench.  You know the one.

It's the one holding Fly-Carpin's annual trout.

After that it was a little slow.  It took me a good 10 minutes to get back in the groove and sink into my youth.  To remember how to bounce a dry fly off the bank into a pocket the size of a tin-cup.  To remember how to cast so that my fly and only my fly hits the water.  To find the places in-between.  In between current and still.  Between deep and shallow.  Between eddy and main.  Between 2 feet of fly line out of the end and way too much.  Lets call it an even dozen in half an hour and call it good.